Help me escape from NYC for one hour a day!
January 10, 2007 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Good places to spend an hour lunch break in Midtown Manhattan?

I work near 6th Avenue and 57th Street. My building has a lunch room in the basement, which seems like the most depressing possible place to spend my (mandatory) hourlong lunch.

At this time of day I'm often not even hungry, and in the summer I took catnaps in Central Park or otherwise enjoyed the outdoors. But it's winter now, and I feel trapped. I abhor crowds, loathe noise, despise tourists, and in general, believe that this part of the city is an abomination. It seems like most places that have indoor public space either have banned food or have a TV blaring somewhere overhead.

I need indoor places nearby where I can sit quietly and read, write, or eat in peace. OR I need indoor places nearby that I can walk around and explore in relative quiet and privacy. Both need to be either free or practically so, and need to be within walking distance. I often pack my lunch, and just need somewhere to eat it. I refuse to spend more than $5 on lunch if I buy it in the city. I refuse to wander in the cold for an hour. I refuse to eat in the basement. Please help, AskMe!

Some examples, I love to go sit and read or relax in St. Thomas Cathedral on 53rd and 5th, which is almost always empty. There is a large art supply store on 57th and 7th that is fun to explore. There is a fancy bookstore on 57th between 5th and 6th with a window seat I can read in (no food allowed, though). The lobby of the Park Lane Hotel has lovely armchairs perfect for reading, but I'd feel gauche eating a sandwich there.

Ambience is key, as I could always just go sit in the basement if I wanted to.

Please please please, thank you thank you thank you.
posted by BE ADEQUITE to Work & Money (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You could always go to the New York Public Library main branch on 42nd and 5th, and sit in the study rooms. They're very lovely.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:07 PM on January 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

There's that bamboo filled atrium on Madison(?) Between 56th and 57th Streets. It might be crowded at lunchtime though.

Also, the Art Student's League on 57th, right across from that art store you mention. I think the galleries are open to the public. No one checks ID anyway, so just walk in and go up a floor to the gallery. That's good for at least five minutes.

There might be more ideas in the cities guide to Privately Owned Public Space. (all neigborhoods here)
posted by miniape at 12:24 PM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are an awful lot of art galleries right there for your exploring fun:

NAILYA ALEXANDER 24 W 57th St, Ste 503
BONNI BENRUBI 41 E 57th St 13th fl
BERNARDUCCI.MEISEL 37 W 57th St 6th fl
COHEN AMADOR 41 E 57th St 6th fl
TIBOR DE NAGY 724 Fifth Ave 12th fl
CANDACE DWAN 24 W 57th St, Ste 503
MARIAN GOODMAN 24 W 57th St 4th fl
HOWARD GREENBERG 41 E 57th St, Ste 1406
EDWYNN HOUK 745 Fifth Ave
LAURENCE MILLER 20 W 57th St 3rd fl
PACE/MACGILL 32 E 57th St 9th fl
PACEWILDENSTEIN 32 E 57th St, 2nd fl
THE PROJECT 37 W 57th St 3rd fl

I also think that Takashimaya (Japanese department store on 5th Ave around 55th) has a great vibe. They have a tea café in their basement level that I like to sit in.
posted by xo at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2007

Oh, and if you keep walking upstairs in the Art Student's league, they have a cafeteria where you can eat easily without being hassled.
posted by miniape at 12:27 PM on January 10, 2007

I didn't specify how far I'm willing to walk, TPS, but I imagine that making it to 5th and 42nd would be about a fifteen-minute walk each way with a security checkpoint at the entrance thrown in as a variable. That would earmark half of my hour for being spent in the cold and on the pushy streets, which puts it slightly out of my range-- as in I might do that occasionally on a lark, but it's not something I could comfortably integrate into my daily schedule. Thanks though, I will have to check it out nevertheless!

Good link, miniape, thanks!
posted by BE ADEQUITE at 12:31 PM on January 10, 2007

I've used Takashimaya as a lunch-break visit before, but hadn't found their café. Thanks xo!
posted by BE ADEQUITE at 12:33 PM on January 10, 2007

What about the Time-Warner Center at Columbus Circle? There's a Borders bookstore with a cafe (probably not under $5) and a seating section. There's also a Whole Foods below street level that has tables where you can eat lunch. Hard to eat lunch there for under $5, either, although there is a Jamba Juice, if a smoothie qualifies as lunch for you.
posted by PlusDistance at 1:16 PM on January 10, 2007

OK, after re-reading your question, the Whole Foods is a crowded nightmare. The Borders is relatively quiet, though, and I think there are some places to sit on one or more of the balconies. And you could always sit against a wall in one of the quieter corners.
posted by PlusDistance at 1:22 PM on January 10, 2007

My offices (although I'm rarely there) are on 6th (technically its Ave of the Americas where you and I are) b/t 54th and 55th.

First thoughts...

You're a couple blocks north of the MOMA, surprised no one pointed that out. Not free, per se, but if you've been in NY for a while you know the various ways to reduce those costs.

Lobby at Le Parker Meridian (57 b/t 6th and 7th) might be nice but another place you might not want to eat your sandwich. There is the Burger Joint there where you can get a burg and fries for about $5.

There's a kind of glass-enclosed open air space on 56 b/t 6th and 7th that (I think) has an Au Bon Pain and chairs / tables for sitting, you'll notice it from the street, its fairly large.

And then there's those luncheonette type deals with upstairs dining, you know, the places that have entrees, salads / soups / sandwiches and mainly cater to working folk who want a quick lunch - some of them have nice upstairs dining areas if you can get a seat near the window. I know of at least 2 in the vicinity, one's on 57 just east of 6th I believe.

And there's the lobby of the Hilton on 6th b/t 54 and 55. Stick to the right as you walk back through the lobby and there's kind of a lounge / bar type area that is open usually during the day but relatively empty because the bar isn't open. I used to make a lot of interview calls from there - its nice and quiet.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:20 PM on January 10, 2007

The Time & Life Building (50th and 6th, across the street from Radio City) has a concourse that has a couple different places to eat (I like Food Merchants), both fast food and cafe-style. Au Bon Pain is across the street from the building as well if you're interested.
posted by ThirstyEar2 at 2:51 PM on January 10, 2007

Ah my hood. I second the Burger Joint for lunch.

Also, for weird fun, maybe take a stroll through this place (Gotta Have It Auction House.) I haven't been yet myself but it sounds like a fantastic pop culture museum.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:41 PM on January 10, 2007

It's a bit of a walk, but the basement of the Citigroup Center (the one with the sloping roof) at about 53rd and Lex has a big atrium where you can sit and eat. There is sometimes live music, but you can sit far away from the performers if you wish. I used to eat there a lot, and it's where I would go if I was meeting someone for lunch and the weather outside was iffy.

Several other office buildings off third also have public spaces downstairs.
posted by sueinnyc at 3:43 PM on January 10, 2007

I can't believe nobody's mentioned the gorgeous, lush, 130-ft-ceilinged indoor greenhouse that is the Ford Foundation's atrium. 320 E. 42nd. Even if it's a slightly longer haul than your other possibilities, I bet it's the greenest, quietest public place you can find in Midtown. I haven't been there for years myself, but a cursory google indicates it's still open to the public, 9-5 M-F.
posted by allterrainbrain at 4:07 PM on January 10, 2007

Sony Plaza (madison btwn 55th and 56th), while sometimes crowded, you can usually find a seat. And sometimes famous people to into the starbucks.
posted by softlord at 5:27 PM on January 10, 2007

Second the Ford Foundation atrium and Takashimaya. Also there's the Urban Center on Mad, which has an architecture gallery and is near Le Cirque 2000, the Four Seasons has a nice lobby, and the St. Regis, and the Hudson Hotel on 58th has a boss library. Plus, never fear, the Museum of Contemporary Art is going to be lovely, and will open next year.
posted by DenOfSizer at 6:20 AM on January 11, 2007

« Older Help me choose new pots and pans   |   EconomicsFilter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.